Every day I see denunciations of corporate greed. I see them on Facebook, and on Occupy poster-boards. “End corporate greed!” they say: and often they complain bitterly about how little taxes corporations pay.
This perplexes me. Corporations are supposed to be greedy. That's what they're there for. The wealth of a nation is determined largely by how efficiently its people are organized to produce its goods: and that translates pretty directly into how successfully greedy its corporations are. It's no more wrong for a corporation to be greedy than it is wrong for a tiger to be carnivorous.
So I don't want to make corporations less greedy. I don't want to turn them into philanthropic organizations. They produce plenty of public benefit just by being themselves. And I don't want to tax their incomes, which puts American corporations at an international disadvantage. Tax their shareholders, by all means. Tax their ridiculously compensated CEO's. Tax their sales, if you must. But leave the tigers healthy to hunt.
But by the same token, it's silly to treat corporations as persons, and give them political rights. A corporation is no more capable of public spirit and selflessness than a tiger is capable of becoming vegetarian. The founders of the United States would have been horrified at the idea of a corporation having political rights. And so am I. It's not just common sense that's outraged by the idea of a corporation having god-given, inalienable rights. It's political sense. A corporation, given the power of political speech, will use it for the one thing it knows: maximizing profit. The same thing that makes a corporation a healthy economic creature makes it ineligible to be a political creature. A corporation doesn't, and shouldn't, understand the public good. It doesn't have children whose future it's anxious for. It doesn't care about rivers being polluted. It doesn't think some things belong only to God.
Corporations don't belong in the political arena for the same reason that tigers don't belong in sheepfolds. And it's not because they're greedy. It's right and proper that they're greedy. I wouldn't have them any other way. It's because they are not, never have been, and never will be persons. No matter what the Supreme Court says.